Paul Curtis, nicknamed Moose, was a young man who found work in a restaurant in the UK in the 1980s. He washed dishes in the kitchen. One evening, he was done with his chores and was just wandering around aimlessly when he discovered a little mark on the restaurant wall.
He reached for a dishcloth and attempted to clean off the stain, as any restaurant employee would. Now in those days, restaurants allowed customers to smoke freely within the premises. As a result, entire walls were coated with nicotine. By attempting to wipe clean the small original mark, he created an even larger marking on the stained walls. In his own words,
I always thought the walls are painted in that colour, now this almost white cleaning stripe was shining out of the wall like I had this tin of white spray paint.
That was a defining moment for him.
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Many years later, Moose started experimenting with high pressure washers and other cleaning equipment to remove dirt and grime on public structures, road tunnels and pavements in order to create works of art. He had invented a new form of street art known as Reverse Graffiti.
Rather than adding on layers after layers of paint, reverse graffiti takes what is currently available, selectively removes part of it, and in the process a piece of art work is formed.
The first piece of large scale reverse graffiti was produced by artist Alexander Orion in the city of Sao Paolo.
There were many attempts for lawmakers to persecute Moose and other reverse graffiti artists initially. But after a while police departments found it difficult, if not impossible to persecute someone for removing dirt and grime from a public structure or pavement.
At this moment the reverse graffiti movement has gained a following especially from many organisations looking to spread their message in a non obtrusive way.
Reverse graffiti challenges our perception of what is right and what is wrong, what is necessary and what is not. At the same time it shapes and changes the environment we live in.
My Investment Wall.
When I started my investment journey many years ago, I wanted to know everything. Knowledge is power. I imagined that the only way to make money is to gain more knowledge. I learned how to read charts. I wanted to know about every indicator there is. I wanted to trade Forex, I wanted to get in on the carry trade and arbitrage one currency against another. I wanted to invest in bonds, and commodities. I wanted to trade options.
I wanted to know everything about the companies that were listed on the SGX. I read analysts reports and recommendations faithfully. I chased after first hand news for the companies I bought. Not only that, I wanted to buy into other markets. I wanted a piece of the hottest companies listed in Hong Kong and the US. I was afraid to miss out on opportunities.
I read about Value Investing, and competitive advantages. I read Warren Buffett’s letters and books written about him. I was like a sponge, soaking up everything. I was like a blank wall, and all the information that I am taking in is just like graffiti on the wall.
After a while the wall becomes covered totally. Graffiti from many different artists and many different sources, added piecemeal and at different times. Every little space is utilized. There is no longer space to draw on, and the only way to add further is to paint over what is currently on display. There was no coherence, and every artist imposed their own style onto my wall. Things are becoming, hmm, shall I say, somewhat complicated.
Complicated vs Simple.
In his 2013 Letter to Shareholders, Warren Buffett dishes out this piece of valuable advice.
You don’t need to be an expert in order to achieve satisfactory investment returns. But if you aren’t, you must recognise your limitations and follow a certain course to work reasonably well. Keep things simple…
Simple is the exact opposite of complicated. Simple means to remove whatever is unneccessary. Simple requires us to be selective. Simple calls on us to discard rather than add on.
Well, I am no expert in investing, and I doubt I will ever be. But that is fine for me, because I have since recognised that I do not have to be an expert to achieve the returns I want. (If you are still not convinced, read what my friend Lionel from Cheerful Egg has to say about being mediocre).
The time has come for me to start discarding stuff that I do not need. It is time I start to pressure clean my own Investment Wall, scrubbing it clean at places and letting what remains play an even more significant role.
The Reverse Graffiti that eventually remains on my Wall will be just as amazing.
What is your Investment Wall like? Leave us a comment or drop us an email to tell us more!